7.16.2014

To The Nines


This is dedicated to the man that allowed me to start calling him ‘Husband’ on the day that we were married. The same man that has allowed it to progress to Hubby, Hubbykins, Hubbers, HubbyMcWubberson, you get the idea. Let’s just say it feels weird when I call him just ‘Ian.’ He’s a keeper.

Today is our ninth anniversary. I considered commemorating this day by writing nine things I love about Ian, or nine things that drive me crazy about him, or sharing nine of my favorite hairs on his head, or some other such things relatable to the number nine. But, nine things I loved seemed too easy and I couldn’t possibly reveal nine things that drive me crazy since I can hardly come up with one ;). So I have settled upon nine memories that stand out to me over the course of our nine years together.

First, the prologue. This doesn’t count toward the nine memories because I am making the rules. There was a night we shared before we were married, perhaps before we were engaged (but who could know for sure?), that I will never forget. I was having one of those days when I hated every inch of myself. I was the wrong size, the wrong shape, and I was so frustrated with it all that I had come to tears while enjoying a starry evening with my beau on his balcony. He was adamant that I was beautiful, I was adamant perfectly opposite. Frustrated with my persistence, Ian got down on his knees and forced me to look into his face while he proclaimed (with much fervor) how perfect I was through and through. Up to that point, I had never so readily believed someone when they told me I was beautiful. The sincerity in his eyes was unmistakable. It is a memory I love because of how much he loved me. How genuinely he wanted to protect my heart from my own self-destruction. The best part is I am a far cry from the hottie I was then, and still I hear at least once everyday, with all the sincerity in the world, how beautiful I am.

Ok, on to the married memories.. I promise they are not all quite so sappy :)

Year 1. Upland, Indiana was home, and home was too quiet. Our only options for companionship were birds or fish and fish weren’t cuddly enough. We settled on a bird hunt and found one at a garden store not too far away. He was a silky white cockatiel and was crazy as a foaming possum. Let’s just say had we done our research, we might have purchased a hand-raised bird. I will never forget riding in Ian’s Nissan 300ZX with that bird scratching and shrieking trying to escape from the dainty, brown cardboard box on my lap. Undeterred, we spent the ride home coming up with a name for him (her? We still don’t really know). We passed a road sign that said ‘Hamilton’ and I was sold. It was perfect! Ian thought so too, but if you ask him, Hamilton was named for Patrick Hamilton, the martyr. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the difference between Ian and myself. I still get warm fuzzy feelings when I think of our crazy, sweet Hamilton.

Year 2. Perhaps the most poignant memory this year was when Ian told me he got in to St Andrews for his master’s degree. I was on a mission trip in Mexico, so received the news via a short pay phone call, and spent the rest of the trip wondering where on earth life was taking us. However, my favorite times to think back on from this year are those that we spent together in the art building at Taylor University. Being the weirdo married couple living on a college campus, Ian was around a lot though he was not a student. Most of my work had to be done in the art building, so he often came with me and I loved every minute of it. I loved how easily he talked to my peers and professors. I loved that he was there with me, knowing that part of my life. I love the memories I have of him working just as hard as I did to finish framing and setting up all the artwork for my senior exhibition.

Year 3. Hello change! Neither of us had ever moved further than Upland, Indiana, and here we were moving to a different country. A little over a month after we moved, still in the throes of culture shock and insecurity, I remember getting the news that my grandma had died. I remember feeling so shocked and numb. I thought she was getting better. It was the beginning of the end of my childhood utopia of trips to grandma and grandpa’s house. The expected. The norm. It was changing. I didn’t know how to handle it, so I took the longest shower of my life and cried a lot. Ian was there. He cried with me, he remembered with me, he helped me sort out a plane ticket so I could be with my family to grieve the loss of my loving, feisty grandma. He probably got me a drink of water, too, since that’s what he does when someone is crying. That was the beginning of a tough year that pushed us to burrow into one another, to trust Jesus, and to soak up the sun and the rain alike.

Year 4. This was the year that we took a little getaway to Glencoe for the weekend following our American Thanksgiving celebration. It was our first time hiring a car. A car that we barely fit into. I remember marveling at how easily Ian could reach over and touch my window, and the fear (that I would mess up his driving) wrapped in giggles every time he hit my leg as he shifted. It was Ian’s first time driving on the left, but it was not the first time he impressed me with his readiness to handle what is thrown at him. We saw the Northern Lights, we got to drive and hike in snow, we got lost together so many times, we marveled at the incredible scenery and the difference between the east and west coasts, we did what married couples do on getaways and then we had a baby.

Year 5. This was the year that we learned that having a baby is not all it’s cracked up to be. Obviously, a sentiment we recovered from. I remember my first attempt to drag myself out of bed after bringing our ‘bundle of joy’ home from the hospital the day before. There had been no sleep. My eyes were burning, my body was exhausted, I turned and look at my husband’s bloodshot eyes and found he was thinking the same thing I was. What have we done?? In our sleep-deprived short-sightedness, we were pretty sure our lives were ruined forever. Happily, we were very wrong. Ian was ingenious at figuring the baby thing out. Someone told him crumpling a chip bag could quell the screaming. When that stopped working, he found a giant trash bag and made all the ruckus he could until our ‘little angel’ was asleep. I hope I never forget watching him desperately flapping that black trash bag around in our first son’s tiny bedroom.

Year 6. Ok so it is harder than I thought to only pick ONE memory from each year. We do so many things each year! In year 6 we drove across Europe, spent 5 weeks apart while Ian studied at Rutgers, had another baby, I mean, come on. I remember our first time leaving Aed completely and going SO far away to Edinburgh :). The Tattoo started at 10pm so it was a very late excursion. I remember feeling giddy with excitement that we were FREE! We were alone, just the two of us, going out somewhere without our son. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our son and I loved going places with him, but the feeling of being by ourselves was irreplaceable. We had next to nothing to carry and could go anywhere or do anything on a whim. We could be LOUD. I remember thinking we were getting old as we struggled to enjoy something that started at 10pm because we were so tired. I remember feeling so happy and refreshed as I enjoyed such an experience with my favorite person in the world. Focusing only on him.

Year 7.  We left Scotland, I ran a half marathon, Ian got a job and graduated. Another full year. I remember when he left to return to Scotland to teach a class and defend his thesis. We were living with my parents during our in between, full of hope for a job. We made a paper chain so the boys could see how many sleeps were left before we saw Daddy again. I remember hanging those little circles while feeling like it may as well have been a year before we would see him again. I remember my eyes filling with tears as he told me about his visits to places that meant so much to us, visits with people that I loved and missed. I remember the phone call to tell me that he had passed. The joy and thankfulness we felt. I remember making ‘Dr. Daddy’ signs to greet him at the airport. I remember the way it felt to see him again, to feel so proud of my husband and what he had done, to watch my big boy run to his daddy with such joy, to see my husband’s face full of life and light as we relished in the possibilities.

Year 8. A cross-country move to a place that promised sunshine and sand, then delivered it, along with sweltering heat and earthquakes. Earthquakes. I am not the worrier in our family. Ian takes care of that unfalteringly. Anxiety is a very real experience for him. I can’t say why, but moving to a place that threatened earthquakes at any time really ate away at my mind. I found myself constantly trying to figure out how to handle an earthquake in each place we went, so heavily burdened by being responsible for my helpless children’s safety. I remember realizing one morning how consumed I was by this fear, by the worst-case-scenarios that were becoming a constant in my consciousness. That night as we went to bed I tearfully confessed to my husband how much I was struggling – how I had no idea how to handle it, and I remember so clearly feeling like I finally understood, just a tiny bit, what he deals with all the time. He was so ready to comfort and help me, so experienced with such a burden. He knew.

Year 9. My most constant memory and feeling this year has been awe. My moments to reflect and sit with my own thoughts are few and fleeting, but every once in a while I catch a glimmer of the amazement that lies in my spirit, down underneath the diapers and worries and peanut butter smears and bubble blowing. We moved across the country again and this year has carried a theme of provision. Things we didn’t even think to ask for we were given. Things that have made this place such a rest and refreshment for our family. Our home is just that, a home. It is not a tiny apartment, it is not filled with the goods of strangers, we have made it ours. Most every day, I have awakened to the presence of my husband lying next to me. I have ended each day with an ‘I love you.’  I have watched my husband love our children, I have thrown my hands up with him as we gave up trying to figure out how to fix yet another situation. I have given thanks for his steadiness, his patience, his willingness to do and do and do. My favorite memory, right now, was waking up to his smile this morning as he reminded me that it was our anniversary. The feeling that washed over me as I knew, even with all the mundane and monotony, today would be a special day. Maybe there aren’t enough years in a life for me to feel like I’ve gotten sufficient time with my husband, I can’t say yet. But I can say that nine isn’t enough :). I am eternally grateful for the man I have been given to share my life with. Happy anniversary, Hubbywubbyshmubbykins.

3.27.2014

Today.

(Disclaimer: The photos in this post are recent, but completely unrelated to the text and were not taken today. They are just for funsies.)

It was one of those days. The kind where before you even open your eyes in the morning you are longing for bedtime. The kind that rolls you around and spits you out on the other side of exhaustion. A typical day full of everything and nothing, clouded by a haze of bleary.

We stayed up late getting papers ready for tax-doing. In the end most of it didn’t matter anyway. Isn’t that just the way it goes?

Ari slept enough last night that I found myself checking on him to make sure he was still breathing on more than one occasion. Forfeiting my benefit from his sleep, I was able to groggily retrieve him from his crib this morning knowing he would live to see another day. The worry always seems so silly when the sun is shining on it. 


I'm pretty sure the bigger two joined me in bed at some point before I dragged myself out of it. Oh yes, they sat on the end of the bed ‘reading’ books to each other. This is a new development and I adore it. I can’t even try to hide my smile when I catch them sitting together somewhere with their books.


I looked at my children closely so many times today. Straight into their eyes, longing for them to know how deeply I love them. I stare into their growing-up faces and am amazed at how the changes catch me off guard. Every day I look at them, love them, kiss them, and still it catches me off guard.


I visited the dentist this morning to happily discover that I will make my goal of no cavities before I turn 30. (Let’s see if we can make it to 31!) I promised the dentist I wouldn’t brag to Ian about it. Then I came home and told him, so maybe I failed?

My visit to the dentist was entirely without children. By myself. No one else. To the dentist, but still, the lack of weight in my arms and effort in my being from hauling my precious cargo around was noted and appreciated.



I told my husband how tired I was about 28 times before 11am. He still loves me. He’s a keeper.


My heart hurt a little when one of my children made a mistake. A small one in the scheme of things, but I long so much to understand why he does what he does. I thought about it until I got distracted.

I watched my babiest of babies throw smiles my way willy-nilly any time he caught my eye. He has a major crush on his mama and it is adorable. If eating him would really quench this need I have to love on him, I might just do it. 

I pushed through the motions of making lunch, sat and listened to my little clowns in their goofy banter, requested that one return to his chair to eat his blueberries, gave a thought to my thankfulness for those very berries, put a baby to bed, then put a little boy to bed. The bigger boy got to watch a little extra today in hopes that I might get to pass my burdens on to the open arms of my own bed. The baby needed a cuddle. The phone buzzed. There was a little sleep, but as I have learned, rest is almost as good as sleep.


Am I the only one that craves chocolate with great intensity when I am tired? Sometimes I really do think it might be worth it to learn to like coffee. Then I remember how it makes me cringe and remain steadfast that it will never be worth it. I ate one too many chocolate chips via the too many items in our pantry containing chocolate chips at the moment. I considered doing some situps. Tomorrow I will do them. Today doesn’t need situps, it needs a loving teaspoon of Just Enough.

I read to my big boy and didn’t fall asleep. Victory. Our baby joined us part way through.


Every time I saw my husband I thanked. He is a steady undercurrent in each day and we all have a crush on him. He is well adored. (Unless, of course, he is casting a stern gaze on our eldest. Then he is avoided rather than adored. One of the perils of being a four-year-old still learning the ropes.)

I reveled in the chaos of our three boys and their noise. I wondered at them and loved their antics. I reminded Ian how tired I was. I felt the 28 previous mentions just didn’t suffice. I enjoyed listening to him read to our children while I tried to be productive.


I tried to talk on the phone. It was a mildly unsatisfying attempt that involved too many distractions and interruptions. Thankfully it was still fruitful and if we’re being fair, I did get to go to the dentist by myself this morning. One can’t ask for too much in a single day.

I gave thanks that no cooking was needed for dinner tonight. I gave thanks that we made it to dinner. I gave thanks that it was a bath night so I would get to smell fresh heads at bedtime.


I let my fuse get too short when my baby wouldn’t stop crying. I wondered why he wouldn’t settle. Found things to fret about. Wished I could sit down. An hour later all was well. The sun is down now, so the worry doesn’t seem silly yet. Maybe in the morning it will.

The house is still messy. Dinner dishes adorning the table. Four baskets of clean laundry getting wrinkly while they wait. I find myself wondering what sleep will look like tonight. Maybe it will be just enough. Maybe tomorrow will be less foggy. But even if it’s not, on we will go. We will love and wish, laugh and furrow, talk and play and rest, wonder and worry, marvel and thank. It will be another day. Probably a lot like today.

2.16.2014

Just a few more things

As it turns out, we have done more in St Louis than have a baby. We have actually done a significant number of really great things! But you'd never know from this here little bloggy-blog, would you?

No you wouldn't. Because life keeps changing, and in order to keep up, my priorities keep changing. I have spent some time over the last few days looking back at our blog and am overcome at how much I love reliving the moments that are recorded here. As my circumstances have changed yet again, I think I am ready to move blogging back up the ranks a bit and get some stories and thoughts down here in my 'free time'. (heh.)

In debating where to begin and what to do next, I decided I'm just going to suck it up and catch up. I just don't think I'll be able to face blogging about today until I feel yesterday has been adequately accounted for.

So. That means there are a few more things to remember from our time in CA. Things that I will enjoy remembering because we were wearing flip flops with rosy cheeks instead of freezing under layers of ice and snow as we are in this very moment. The grass is always greener. Always. But I would by lying if I said I wasn't struggling looking back at photos of sunshine and strawberries. Anyway.

To begin, a few throwback pictures of our little Ash-matash. It is shocking to me how small he was when we moved to CA, and how big he was when we left. SO much growing happens in the first three years. Oh, they keep changing alright, but not in the leaps and bounds they do in the first few years.

We lived in a tiny apartment. So, so tiny. Some days I wanted to poke my eyes out from the tininess. Other days I remembered how it only took an hour tops to clean our whole house with two kids underfoot and loved it for all it was worth. And even though I hated it more than I loved it, I see pictures and get twinges just like I do with other places we've lived that I loved far more. There is always something gained no matter how unidyllic your circumstances are. (The optimism! It is unflinching! It is my super power!)

Our tiny apartment was just a little ways down the road from an awesome enclosed playground. We went there a lot. It was so easy to let the kiddos run, and very rarely crowded. This is a picture of our tiny tot being adorable at that playground and I love him.


 That baby face! It's so much less baby now. It will be even less baby next year. Oh the baby face.


Over the course of the year, both boys worked up the courage to go down the twisty slide. It's a tough one because you can't see the bottom from the top. But, oh yes, they did it. Over and over and over. Orange sunglasses and all.


At this little playground, my children demonstrated that they do not know how to swing. But doing it like this is actually really fun and far less likely to result in injury (At least for my children. That is not a heavily researched claim). They also demonstrated that they do not know the dangers of walking in front of swinging swings holding swingers. Numerous times. Were it not for the danger it posed to the swingers, I would have let them get knocked over so they would remember that this was not a good idea. But, I hear other parents don't like it when people toy with their children's lives to teach their own children a lesson. So there's that.


But, this little nook was really just the best. They spent so much time under there playing all sorts of games and eating rocks and such. Just the best.

When we weren't playing outside, we were playing inside.


We played with our Bob the Builder toys, like the above goggles. Below is the face Asher made every time he asked to have them put on. Be still my heart.




We played with 'da beens' a lot. Still do actually. Throw some beans and construction trucks into a pan and you have endless entertainment! For my boys anyway. (Again, I haven't researched that claim.) Please note: playing with da beens is way more fun when you're wearing your big brother's shoes, too.


We made paper hats because those are fun for the 5 minutes that they last.


We spent far more time than we should have doing unsafe things like this because everything is a toy when you live in a teeny tiny apartment. And that little monkey has grown into a slightly bigger monkey that still does this and more!


There were corners to hide in and mysterious games that only brothers knew about.




We managed to find ways to hurt ourselves (I even had to get stitches in my pinkie finger! Watch out for those butter knives!) and then cheered each other up by taking silly pictures.

 

You know those little stoppers on the bottom of doors that make that noise when you flick them? Do you think they're awesome? Because my children sure do! Unfortunately for us, they were on every door in our apartment. Until our children broke them off. Fortunately for us, at least two of them could be reattached. Also fortunately for us, most of the time our children forgot about them. Please note: playing with the stoppers is way more fun when you're wearing your big brothers shoes over your pjs.


Even the hallway leading to our apartment provided entertainment. There was an elevator (where our curious children pushed the emergency button SO many times. I hate to think who might be ignored in the case of a real emergency after our stint using this elevator) that taught us about listening and also being aware of other people. Because the boys would do things like the above position of 'hiding' while we waited for it to come and then the door would open and they would faceplant into an unsuspecting resident's crotch. Never a dull moment for us or our neighbors! (Have I mentioned we were the only ones on our floor with children?)

We would play ball in the hallway (during respectable hours of course, this isn't college now, is it), hide in our doorway and wait for Daddy to get home, and even have races or help carry the garbage to the big chute. It amazes me to think about the number of things we found to do even though our apartment was teeny tiny. It also amazes me that people were still nice to us, and even liked us   though our children did ridiculous things.

We found great community inside and outside, which brings me to my next of the 'few more things' - our California friends!

12.07.2013

Ari Louis Church: An Account of Worry and Provision

(That really should probably be called a saga since it’s looooong.. This is what happens when I don't blog enough :)



We welcomed our latest addition to the family a little over one week ago, and as I have been thinking about and processing how that happened, I’ve been repeatedly convicted by the importance of writing it down. I want to remember the worry, fear, joy, and thankfulness that tucked themselves into my heart while we waited for and welcomed him.

My pregnancy with Ari overall was uneventful. That’s the way we like it. My main concerns were the facts that 1) my belly was HUGE and made it nearly impossible to move around like a normal human being, and 2) I started to get very puffy during the third trimester. Like really puffy. All over. My doctor’s main concern was my ever-fluctuating blood pressure – not something I’d ever experienced before. Close behind were concerns about me actually being at the hospital when this baby was born, given our experience with Asher, and some mysterious late-third-trimester weight loss (which obviously really affected Ari’s weight :).

This pregnancy was by far my most ‘symptomatic,’ with all the stuff I knew people experienced but hadn’t dealt with myself. I was very ready to stop dealing with those things several weeks before my due date, and would comfort myself with the knowledge that he was big and I was having tons of contractions, so he would probably be early. It was much more trying than my last two pregnancies and I often had to catch myself and remember how much there was to be thankful for rather than focusing on all the things there were to complain about.


Thinking this might be our last belly photo - nope!
The First False Alarm

Roughly two weeks before my due date, on a Friday, I had been having contractions for two days and noticed that they were picking up and were alarmingly regular. Knowing how quickly things had moved with Asher, and with my doctor’s concerns about that lingering in the back of my mind, we decided to go ahead to the hospital just to see what might be happening. I continued having contractions, but they didn’t seem to be amounting to much of anything.

The woman that attended us was such a gift. She was incredibly personable and caring, and decided while we were there that she would just go ahead and check to make sure baby was happy and my fluid levels were good. That meant a little ultrasound. She pressed the wand to my belly, let out a little gasp, and immediately pulled it away. She looked right at me and said, ‘This baby is head down, right?’ I told her I thought so, but it quickly became clear that he was breech.

She spent a good deal of time giving us explanations of various scenarios that could be our reality given this news, even going so far as to find out if there were any doctors at the hospital that would deliver a breech baby as opposed to going straight to a c-section. We ended our time that evening talking about things I could do to try to get him to turn and instructions to call the office first thing Monday morning to schedule another ultrasound to see if he was still breech, and then perhaps attempt a version to turn him from the outside.

As we left and drove home, I sorted through a confusing mix of emotions. I was upset that my doctor hadn’t caught that he was breech sooner given that I could go into labor at any time, and I could tell he had been in the same position for a while. I was afraid of the prospect of having a c-section, especially given that nothing was really ‘wrong’ with either of us, he was just facing the wrong direction. But I was also beyond thankful that I had had enough contractions to prompt us to go in, and that the doctor had decided to do an ultrasound to measure fluids, only to discover a breech baby. On top of that, despite feeling a little silly for having a ‘false alarm’ (my first ever!), I was so, so thankful that my contractions had died down to give us a little more time to see how things would turn out.


The boys loved 'helping' me with this position :)

A Spinning Baby

I spent the weekend fretting about all kinds of things.. Trying to imagine what a c-section was like and refocus my mental preparations to a healthy delivery regardless of how it came about, rather than just focusing on labor.. Worrying that since he was head up the many bumps and knocks from the outside might have done more damage somehow than if he had been head down all along.. Generally being frustrated and discontent with the whole situation.

I also spent the weekend trying all kinds of things to get him to turn over! From peppermint oil to various upside-down contortions, from what I could tell nothing had changed. Then, I did one smooth move (ha!) suggested by my cousin (thanks Sarah!) that had worked for her third baby, and I noticed a change! He certainly was not head down, but his head had moved down, which was progress.

Finally Monday came and we got an appointment for that afternoon. I wasn’t overly hopeful, but I was hopeful, if that makes sense. I really wanted him to have turned, but I was so afraid of getting carried away with thinking he had turned, only to be told again that he was breech. The ultrasound technician we had is an absolute peach (you will notice a theme through all of this, that almost every person we interacted with was incredibly caring, thoughtful, and kind. The Lord knows I am fragile and need people to be nice to me or I cry), and she was surprised to discover that he was no longer breech, but was transverse. She was not happy about that because it means an automatic c-section, but I was hopeful that if he were transverse it would make a version easier.

We left the ultrasound room to wait to see a doctor to discuss a plan of action. This doctor (mine was sick that day) decided to just check on things once more while we were there, and at some point in the move from the ultrasound room to the exam room baby had turned all the way and was head down! Obviously, that was surprising and exciting, but I found myself again hesitating to be hopeful. I wasn’t in labor yet, and somehow he had room to move around in there, so there was no point in getting my hopes up that he would stay that way.

Waiting, Waiting, and Another False Alarm

I had another scheduled appointment the next day with my doctor, and she felt similarly. Given that he’d been in so many positions in such a short time, there was no way to be certain that he’d be head down whenever I went in to labor. She felt the best plan of action was to wait until I was 39 weeks, and then induce at a point when we knew he was head down. That would probably lessen my chances for a natural birth, but that was not a major issue for me, just a preference.

So we waited. And I had a million contractions. I’m pretty sure I had enough contractions for at least three babies while I was waiting for our one baby to arrive. The next Saturday, the day officially marking me at 39 weeks, I again was having contractions regularly. By dinnertime I decided we should go in again to be on the safe side as they were actually picking up in intensity. They checked me right in and took me to a room where we spent an hour waiting to see if these contractions were being productive. We also got confirmation that he was still head down (phew!) during that time (from a doctor who was ecstatic to learn we had lived in St Andrews and wanted to know all about the golf courses). This period was really confusing for me. Contractions were there, regular, and getting stronger, and yet nothing was happening. With the other two, once things were going, they were going! They ultimately decided to send us home, with all of us knowing that we might be back that night. I was certain we would be as they were already noticeably stronger on the drive home.

And then we went to bed. And I slept. And I woke up in the morning and nothing was happening and I was still pregnant and puffy. Every pregnancy is different! I will never believe anything my body tells me ever again! :) Anyway.


 
Surprise! You’re having a baby! Right now.

I had an appointment the following Wednesday, the 27th, in the afternoon with a different doctor. Interestingly (and providentially), she was the doctor I had originally wanted to see throughout my pregnancy, but for several reasons it didn’t work out. My doctor was out of the office the whole Thanksgiving week, so she was it! On this particular day, my blood pressure was high. Not ‘let’s freak out right this minute’ high, but high. Obviously, that is a reason for concern. She was afraid that if I continued being pregnant it would continue to rise, given that it had been high quite a few times, and I’d end up in a much worse situation. That, combined with the baby flip-flopping issue, a history of quick labors, and his ample size led her to suggest that I be induced that day.. as in, literally walk over to L&D from her office and have a baby. She left to let us discuss what we wanted to do, and we basically looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We both felt the reasons were good, and I had a sneaking suspicion I was really going into labor anyway based on the contractions I was having that day. Fortunately, with all the action we had seen, I had started bringing my hospital bag to every appointment ‘just in case.’

So, off we went! We got settled into our room and had lots of lessons in what is normal for an American birth! Again, the nurse that was working with us was incredibly helpful, took our birth plan hopes seriously, and was very straightforward in answering our questions and explaining what she was doing. The doctor came in after about 2 hours to see how things were going and to decide what our next step was. I really wanted to avoid Pitocin and give my body a chance to show us if it was ready to go, so I asked if we could just start with breaking my water and see how things progress. They were happy to oblige, and she found that I had progressed from 1cm to 4 just in the time since I had left her office. (Also during that time we had kept our tradition of watching Elf during labor.. and yes, I know my other two children were born in the summer, but it’s such a great movie!) That made us all happy, but I can’t explain the relief and peace I felt when she said that. I was nervous after we left her office that we had made a choice that could lead us down a path we were hoping to avoid, and that progress was wonderful encouragement that I was ready and baby was ready, so hopefully little intervention would be needed.

So, after a quick check to make sure he was still head down, my water was broken and off we went! This was my first time essentially experiencing labor start to finish at the hospital. It was harder in some ways because there were fewer distractions, but I didn’t miss the long drive to the hospital while in labor one bit!

A new nurse took over and I am so thankful she was with us through the whole thing. She was really supportive of my desire to have a natural birth, and also really honest about the likelihood that induction would make that less possible. I have an entirely new appreciation for L&D nurses after watching these incredible women work with and for us. I just happened to read this yesterday, and though of course our labor experience was not the same, it sounds like our nurse experience certainly was.

Anyway! So, basically I sat on a labor ball watching River Monsters (two other new experiences! I’m sure you can guess who chose our entertainment..) until things were getting rough and decided I wanted to get in the shower for some relief. As seems to be the case with me, almost as soon as I was in the water I started feeling tiny urges to push. I had direct instructions to cause a ruckus as soon as that happened so the doctor had time to get the hospital before the baby arrived, though the nurse assured us she had just caught a baby earlier that week so she would be ok if things didn’t go as planned :).

I have no concept of time from here on out, as I was in my ‘this really hurts’ zone (so was Ian.. he tells me I almost ripped his bicep off, ha!), but things moved really quickly. The doctor made it and our little team welcomed Ari Louis Church into this dark and bright world. I quickly made Ian promise to never let me do that again (double ha!) and marveled that we had another healthy boy who had thrown us for a loop right at the end, but everything worked out just fine. He was born at 11:42pm and weighed 9lbs, 1oz. Getting a 9lb baby out is a lot more work than the other two were :). He was totally perfect, with gigantic cheeks, and we were totally smitten.


I continued to marvel at our nurse’s care for us as she helped get us all ready to move to our recovery room (our private recovery room! Where Ian stayed with me the whole time!). When I thanked her for letting me hold her hand, knowing that my grip is rather deadly during labor, she looked me right in the eye and said she would have done anything to help me at that point. Amazing.

So there we were. The parents of three boys – one of us in particular enjoying American luxuries like ice packs and Tucks pads (which I will be implementing for any future babies regardless of where they are born!) – both marveling at our little bundle of sweetness. I found myself again and again giving thanks that everything had worked out as it did, knowing full well if my doctor had been around or if my blood pressure had been any higher or if my baby had not turned, things could have been entirely different.


Since his birth, Ari (which, I should note, is pronounced ‘R-E’ not ‘airy’) has been nothing short of delightful. He is already letting us sleep more than we could ever have imagined, hardly ever cries, and has captured all of our hearts with no trouble. His brothers think he is ‘just so cute!’ and love to hold him. He loves being warm and napping on Mama or Daddy, and hates being naked for any reason. Especially when Mama’s hands are cold.. which is always.

Since his birth, I have continued to reduce in size, finding my calves, ankles, feet, and hands again. Even my face is smaller :). It is a wonderful thing to bend over without feeling like my eyes are going to pop out, and be able to move around like a normal human being again. I am entirely looking forward to being back to 100% to properly mother my three sweet boys, and am entirely thankful for the wonderful help I’ve received from my family (especially my dear mother) and our community here that is providing us with meals and much support before and after Ari’s arrival. God is so good, and I am so thankful.

 
Ari Louis: What’s in a Name?

Since there’s really no reason to stop now :), I thought I’d include a little explanation of his name. Once it was confirmed that he was a boy, I decided to check out some boys’ names, as I wasn’t totally sold on the one we were tossing around. I really didn’t want another ‘A’ name, and I wasn’t overly concerned with how many letters it had either. I started out with Hebrew names (because, why not?) in the ‘A’s, obviously. I got a few rows in and saw ‘Ari’ and immediately I knew that I was going to have to admit to Ian that I liked this name. I was annoyed about it because it would make us an ‘A’ family and I didn’t really want to do another three letter name since Asher’s isn’t, but I also really felt like the Lord had put it under my nose for a reason. So I confessed to Ian, who loved it, and that was pretty much that.

The name Ari means lion. This was another hang up for me. Every time I thought about it, the image I got was a scary, roaring lion, which I didn’t like. I often pondered how his name might have significance in his life after we settled on Ari, but I felt strongly that I wanted my boy(s) to be a steady, gentle force in this world, not a roaring, intimidating one. So I thought, and I wrestled, and one day hit a realization that brought me peace. The image of the lion laying with the lamb. The knowledge that the dark places in this world (including our own hearts) will be made bright again and even something as scary as a lion will become approachable and peaceful.

So, in his name, we hope that Ari will be courageous, compassionate, a seeker of peace and source of comfort and protection for the weak and hurting in this world. I know that is putting a lot of thought into a simple name, but to me it is significant. I have already seen our older boys manifesting aspects of their own names in their lives and with the people that cross their paths, and can only assume the same will be true with Ari.

Louis carries significance in that St Louis is where he was born. Aed and Asher’s middle names both relate directly to their being born in St Andrews, and we wanted to continue with that, knowing that we will likely not be in St Louis for very long. Not knowing what the future holds, we want our boys to feel some sense of connectedness to their beginnings, especially if we are nomads for longer than we expect.

You made it!

If you’ve made it to this point – kudos! You are a trooper and I am thankful for your willingness to share in Ari’s story despite its length. I make no promises about future blogging as life continues to grow in responsibility, so every post from here on out may make your eyes bleed :). Sorry!

7.02.2013

The Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong Drive


I was a little nervous about our cross-country adventure, but mostly excited because there’s a big world to see! At a minimum our trip would be 33 hours, but throw a couple of kids in there and you’re going to be in the car 4-5 days depending on how things go (excuse me while I try to relieve the tightness in my chest from thinking about being in the car for four days..). I thought and I planned and I crafted and I tried to come up with everything I could think of to entertain our children. Turns out those mornings of entertaining themselves while I cleaned or worked or baked, or whatever I may have been doing that didn’t directly involve them, were good practice for entertaining themselves in the car!


We quickly realized that being the driver was actually the coveted position, as the passenger was faced with constantly contorting to meet the whims of the children in the back seat. And the whims were abundant. As you might guess, I am far more contortable than my inflexible husband, so he won the driver’s seat most of the time. And, I have to say, even for as long as it was, the drive was quite fun!



-  Driving on a two-lane road is astoundingly easy after living in LA for a year. I kind of felt like I didn’t even need to pay attention (but, never fear, I did!). I didn’t realize how stressful that driving really was until I felt the relief of something easier!



-  The landscape of the southern US is incredible and incredibly diverse, which I was not expecting. Sadly, it’s just not the same on a camera as it is to see it in person, so you’ll just have to trust me.



(This stuff was crazy.. there were thick black rocks and mounds all over the place. Looked like lava had bubbled up and hardened. I really wanted to touch it, but I refrained from requesting a pull-over :)

I think my favorite were the plateau formations. They were layered and colorful and so interesting to look at. It seems I didn’t bother photographing them after seeing how indistinct the previous photos turned out, despite how incredible the scenery was. My apologies!

-  We drove though a lot of minimally populated areas. The questions that kept coming up every time we passed another lone house were things like, 'So, what do you suppose you do when you live out here?' 'Do you think they have friends?' 'Where on earth do they get groceries?' It was very puzzling. But, also made me realize there are a lot of places in the US to make movies when you need a remote location.

-  The desert is stunningly dry. Obvious, you might think, but I felt like I might as well have been crawling through the sand for how constant my thirst was.

-  Turns out there are elk in Arizona. And we almost hit one. Now we know.

-  The Grand Canyon might not be as fun as you expect. But it is gorgeous nonetheless.


Asher was really into photos


We gave up on the kids :)


I love Asher's facial expression with all my heart.
Some poor international person was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was asked to take our lovely family photos. The kids were really not happy about a family photo. I don’t know what got into them, but the Grand Canyon made them crazy! We were glad to get back in the car – ha!

I can also say, this was my last day wearing non-maternity jeans (for apparent reasons!). Sitting for that long in something that wasn’t stretchy was just unacceptable for Blueberry and I!

-  Long meals with ample opportunity to use the leg muscles are a treat when you’re living in a car. Somewhere is a really cute picture of the kids running around at dinner one day. Just imagine them inexplicably and repeatedly showing us their bellies as they run circles around a picnic table. That about sums it up!

-  It seems the movie ‘Cars’ was pretty accurate. Route 66 could use some love from Bessie. And Roadkill Café has a delicious salad bar. Asher tells us it’s a good spot to poop.

-  Oklahoma is beautiful after several days in the desert! We couldn’t get enough of the green. Though, it was sobering to drive past a bit of the devastation from recent tornadoes. And, it was an almost immediate relief to my unquenchable thirst when we left the desert behind us!

-  Our kids are total troopers. They were astoundingly (some might say shockingly) longsuffering and allowed us to make enough progress to arrive at Nena and Papaw’s house a day before we expected to! I could hardly believe it.



I cannot express enough how impressed I was with how they just took things in stride. If we rolled into the hotel after midnight (which we did almost every night), they were like ‘whatevs.. we’ll just sit here and drool over Nascar racing while you set up our beds.’ Everyday they were ready with excitement to get back in the car to head to our next stop. I just couldn’t (and can’t) get over it. I know there were so many praying for us, and it was so evident. Despite that, we were very grateful to roll into that Indiana driveway and know the trip behind us.

It took longer than I expected to get over the ‘car lag’ of the time changes we drove through, but within a few days we were good as new.

I’m not looking to do a crazy long drive again any time soon, but I can tell you that I wouldn’t be afraid if we needed to. Added bonus, the 5 hours it takes us to get from here to Indiana seems like nothing now! :)